So you want to become a full time event rider/trainer/coach?

Sounds fabulous! Now – where to start? Do you need an ABN? ACN? TFN? or does it have to begin with NCAS? And what do they all mean? The options appear endless and confusing.

For teenagers considering their future careers the options are wide and varied, but although the path leading to an occupation is not always linear or clear-cut, there are often pre-requisites, steps to be followed and boxes to be ticked along the way. As a senior secondary teacher of students who are about to graduate from high school, I am often faced with students pondering their future pursuits, and, as it is a very academic school, this usually involves tertiary education.

For a budding equestrian, however, the road is not quite so clear. Some believe time spent grooming is invaluable experience, whilst for others this is an occupation and profession in its own right. Others believe a structured course is the way to go and yet others think the good old “school of life” (also known to some as the “school of hard knocks”), provides the ideal background and skills necessary to survive in an equestrian pursuit.

By definition “professional” means following an occupation as a means of livelihood. To be able to ride horses as a livelihood sounds like a dream to many, but do the many have the skills needed to do just this?

For our family, my son Sam has recently begun the journey as a full time rider and so these questions needed to be asked. Sadly, I still don’t have all the answers though!

Is he a skilled rider? Yes.
Competitive? Yes.
Gifted? …hmmm that might need to be answered by someone other than his mother…

But what about the plethora of other skills needed to turn this skillful and competitive rider into a functioning business that can become a ‘livelihood’? It seems (in Australia anyway) that the roles of professional rider and coach can never really be divided.

We can probably all think of professionals who focus more on one role or the other however they never seem to be totally separate. But just because you can ‘walk the walk’ does not always mean you can ‘talk the talk’! Is it possible to be a great teacher without first competing at top level? Certainly, there are people who are fantastic at studying and absorbing knowledge and then have the gift of being able to explain and impart their knowledge and you obviously need background knowledge to be a good coach. But is experience equal to studied knowledge?

Experience is knowledge, but that is not the only way to gain facts (and I am not even going to go into whether it is the best way!), but the cold hard truth is that some people with knowledge, no matter how they gained it, are not as adept at passing this wisdom on to others. And so we go around in circles – some people appear to be born teachers, others can learn to coach and others are just great doers!

It seems to me that the role of coach and rider is blurred all the way to the top of this sport. Yes, the roles may shift between coach and mentor as the experience level grows, but what I do believe is that we can never work alone in this sport. Even at the very top events and amongst the best riders in the world they always acknowledge their large team behind them and they too need support in so many ways, sometimes not in a strict teacher/student relationship but always about sharing ideas (and often for cross country this is a valuable thing with safety in mind as a priority).

In comparison to being professional, by definition an amateur takes part in an activity for pleasure, not as a job, but the word amateur comes from a French word meaning “lover of”. And so we can use this definition to embrace the vast majority of horse enthusiasts who love their horses and love their sport. But equally, those traits have most certainly not been discarded by us when taking the leap from a ‘hobby’ to a ‘business’.

My home may have become a business site, and the stables have become Sam’s ‘office’, but the journey is very exciting and involves so much more than a business brain. What a blast we are having watching the progress of the horses on our team and helping others get the most out of their horses too!

We have embarked on a journey which will hopefully see Sam enjoy a fruitful and rewarding career but I have no doubt there will be plenty of ups and downs along the way. Maybe some of the choices available will not always be immediately apparent to us but we’ll keep you posted as to how we’re dealing with the challenges, and hopefully some achievements, of a young professional rider starting out in business.


Article written by Wendy Jeffree, and first published on An Eventful Life website

Wendy Jeffree is a Mathematics teacher in the Senior School at Haileybury in Melbourne, Australia, mum of 20 year old Australian eventer Sam Jeffree and co-founder of Jeffree Eventing.
B Ed (Sec) (Melb), Grad Dip (Adolescent Health and Welfare) (Melb), Grad Cert Mental Health for Teach Prof (Mon)